ARNAUD SOLY: CREATIVITY 2.0

Videotron put its technological know-how to work for up-and-coming Montréal comic Arnaud Soly. His fertile imagination, combined with his offbeat but intelligent use of social media, made Soly a logical choice for the Videotron Collective, which is dedicated to producing creative, envelope-pushing experiences with local artists and cultural workers. Here’s what happened on July 22nd.

A sandy beach. Asereje (The Ketchup Song) by the pop band Las Ketchup is playing in the background. In the foreground, Arnaud Soly is dancing. To his right is his double, wearing an unconvincing wig, his back to the audience. A little further away we see Soly playing the nose flute. Turn your head and there’s Soly wearing a swim cap and sunglasses. In all, the 27-year-old comedian plays eight characters, all on screen at the same time. The magic is created by the lenses of a 360-degree camera, which render Soly multiplied by eight in seamless virtual reality.

Watch the video below to get a taste of the wacky immersive experience. For the full effect, you’ll want to put on a pair of virtual reality (VR) goggles.


“A TRUE TRIUMPH OF MADNESS”

Let’s backtrack a bit. At 8 am sharp on the morning of July 22, the Videotron crew hooks up with a slightly hyper Arnaud Soly in Montréal and they head to the Boxotel for a unique video shoot.

Named artist of the year at Zoofest 2017, Soly first broke through on the Internet. He now has more than 20,000 Facebook subscribers and is pumped about the way his career has taken off. “I feel lucky. Things happen fast, so I can’t really take a step back, but I’m happy to be doing all of this,” he says.

Arnaud Soly deftly uses modern media techniques and forms – split screen music videos, green screens, walkthroughs, YouTuber parodies, vintage photo effects – the better to distance himself from the codes and poke fun at them. With the Collective, he’s pushing the cursor a little further and taking his usual craziness to the next level. “This shoot is a true triumph of madness,” he proclaims.

Although his comedy debut took place almost two years ago, his first contact with the stage dates back more than a decade, when he was in high school: “I got involved in improv and was immediately hooked on the relationship with the audience. Then I studied music, visual arts, painting, but I had to find a way back to direct contact with people. I still had the comedy bug but I just couldn’t take the plunge. At one point I just decided to go for it, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Discover the making of the VR video. 

A COLOURFUL TAKE ON AUGMENTED REALITY

For the past few months, Arnaud Soly has been creating hilarious videos featuring his bevy of colourful characters. When Videotron asked whether he’d be interested in breaking new technological ground in the medium of his choice, Soly jumped at the chance to translate his most out-there ideas into virtual reality.

“We’ll start with me on stage at the Boxotel, humming the song. Gradually, I’ll emerge from my shell and start doing the choreography. Next to me, my flautist alter ego will appear and start jamming with me. Then, right next to that will be me dressed up as a woman, playing the shaker intensely. Add to that a guy who’s not really happy to be there, a hot dog eater who does nothing but complain.”

And so on, until the full mind-splitting result has been pieced together.

A MEETING OF ART AND HIGH-TECH

Videotron’s technological input enabled Arnaud Soly to give his comedy a new shape: “It’s far from the stuff I do alone with my webcam; in this collaboration, we really take the idea a lot further,” he says. “With the virtual reality component Videotron brings to the table, the result will be super-cool, and it’s not something I could do myself. I’m eager to see how it turns out, but at the same time, it’s a bit stressful. The constellation of characters is up here in my head but I don’t know what it will actually look like.”

After four and a half hours of exertion and exhilaration, Soly comments on the filming experience: “The most complicated part was working with the constraints of VR filming. The video may seem pretty random, but a lot of precision work goes into it, especially when my characters are on split screen. When the flautist starts his solo, I have to look to the left and interact with him.”

Bringing Soly’s zany ideas to 360-degree virtual reality is a painstaking balancing act of art and technology.

In the evening, Soly performs most of his Presque adulte show for a small audience in the intimate setting of the Boxotel. It’s a show he performed six times at the Monument-National during Zoofest. A few minutes before his pre-show power nap, he sees the result of the shoot in embryonic form. He’s impressed. “Oh my God!” he says. “It’s really disturbing… I love it.”

To see this video in all its VR glory,

get the Samsung Gear VR headset, available from Videotron. Click here.

TREPIDATION TURNS INTO EXCITEMENT

7:30 p.m. On the Boxotel stage, Arnaud Soly does a sound check at the mic and on the flute, his instrument of choice, then enjoys a break on the hotel roof. He shares his pre-show thoughts with us: “I always have the jitters before I go on stage. I always end up wondering why I chose to do this job. It’s crazy… Speaking for an hour, it’s ridiculous! At the same time, I can’t wait. The jokes I’m doing are pretty recent, so I’m still excited about doing them. As soon as I hear the first laugh and I feel the audience is with me, the soft drug of the stage kicks in.”

Then Soly takes the stage before a hundred lucky fans and delivers a 60-minute performance that is more serious than his Facebook videos might have led people to expect. It’s a series of observations on adult life and a look at Generation Y, of which Soly is a quintessential member.

After this unprecedented adventure, Arnaud Soly is getting ready to pursue several projects, including shooting 5 prochains, a show that follows five emerging comics in their daily professional lives. The popular series will expose a wider audience to Soly. “I try to stay down-to-earth,” he says. “The idea is to evolve while maintaining the same MO. It would have been risky to say yes to too many things and to change before I’ve really defined who I am.”

If you enjoyed the 360-degree experience with Arnaud Soly, check out the 360-degree insider view of the Milk & Bone concert here.

OLIVIER BOISVERT-MAGNEN
Journalist at Voir

Vidéotron is a proud partner of Zoofest

To learn more about the event, click here

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